Panicked Mom Calls 911 as Age 5 Daughter's Heart Stops, Body Turning Blue


Janessa Sims was described as a vivacious little girl. She was also a very lucky girl who almost lost her life one night.

Janessa had suffered from asthma since birth. She had used an albuterol nebulizer, a device that could help open up her airways to help her breathe. But one night there was just no time for her medication.

When Janessa, a kindergartner, went to sleep, she awoke in the middle of the night with breathing trouble. She called to her mother, Amber Sims, for help.

Amber began to prepare medication for the nebulizer and that’s when she noticed that the situation had become for worse than Janessa’s usual asthma attacks. Her daughter had begun to turn blue.

In a panic, Amber called Janessa’s grandmother, Janet, for help. She immediately checked to see if Janessa was still breathing and discovered that she was not.

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Janet had learned some CPR but it had been long ago. They called 911 and Clifton dispatcher Susan McAvoy answered the call.

“She said she’ll walk me through CPR,” recalled Janet. They continued until more help could come. Sergeant Joshin Smith arrived first to the home, followed by fellow officers Eric Rodriguez and Todd Compesi.  Firefighter Brian Reilly arrived next.

The team noticed that Janessa’s heart had stopped and they quickly took over CPR. “You can just tell, especially with a child: no pulse, the color in her face, and there’s no breathing,” Rodriguez said.

It was a heartbreaking moment for Amber and Janet. Janessa was not responding to the continued CPR. The decision was made to transfer her by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center.

Janet’s other daughter, Ashanna Capers-Redmond, worked at the hospital and Janet called to warn her that her niece was on the way.

At the hospital, Janessa was placed in a coma so that further tests could be done.

It was a team effort, the care and concern of a group, that ultimately saved Janessa’s life. From the 911 dispatcher who walked Janet through CPR to the emergency officers who responded to the scene, they all played an important role.

Janessa was eventually transferred to Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, where she made a complete recovery. But her grandmother, Janet, marveled at the kindness that continued after that terrible night.

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Officers Smith and Reilly continued to check on her family. Janet’s husband, Andrew, had been bedridden due to back and hip problems and Officer Smith made a point to check in on him as well. “Once he brought me dinner,” Andrew recalled.

“It’s important to let people know there are people out there who care,” said Janet. “There are good policemen and firemen in this world.” Smith was touched by the Sims family was well.

“This incident touched all of us,” said Smith, who has a son who has also suffered from an asthma attack. After Janessa’s recovery, she was able to meet the officers who helped to save her life. Everyone was so happy to see how well she was doing.

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